Development of well-being after moving to telework : a longitudinal latent class analysis

Introduction: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teleworking suddenly became a reality for many individuals. Previous research shows that there are contradictory consequences of telework on well-being: while workers have the opportunity for self-directed work, intensified work behavior as well as longer hours being worked might occur at the same time. We expect that the effects of telework vary over time and may be able to explain these contradictions. Moreover, from the perspective of the job demands-resources model besides job resources, personal resources may be relevant. The aim of this study is to investigate how the mental well-being of workers unfolds over time after the onset of the pandemic and the role of telework in this process. Additionally we seek to identify the impact of available job resources and personal resources in this extraordinary situation.

Methods: Data were collected online from 642 participants in Germany beginning in March 2020, with 8 weekly followup surveys. Mental well-being was measured using the WHO-5 well-being index. For personal resources we looked at occupational self-efficacy; job resources were flexible working hours, job autonomy, and social support. Job demands were telework and work intensification. First we used a group-based trajectory analysis approach to identify different well-being trajectories. Second we applied multinomial regression analysis to identify T1 predictors of well-being trajectory group membership and their interactions.

Results: We found three groups of mental well-being trajectories: low, medium, and high. Their progress through the investigation period was rather stable: we observed only slight improvements of mental well-being for the high well-being group and a slight deterioration for the other two groups. Only the job demand work intensification and the personal resource occupational self-efficacy had a significant relationship to group assignment. Additionally we found interactions of telework with work intensification and occupational self-efficacy indicating a buffering mechanism of telework on the consequences of high work intensification; and low occupational self-efficacy.

Discussion: Telework appears to be a useful resource that buffered high work intensification and compensated for low personal resources during the pandemic. Since data were from self-reports of a convenience sample we can't assume generalization of our results nor absence of common-method bias.


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